Warrior Girl on the Trail: Finding my Inner Horse

Hitting the trail at Orr Lake


I wasn’t planning to include trail-running in my Warrior Girl training. Not yet at least. When my horse-riding 13-year-old wanted to hit the trails instead of the stadium ring, it seemed like a good idea. There wasn’t a trail riding partner available, so this left me with a choice. I could sit at the cross-roads of the trails and fidget, wondering if a rabbit had startled Rev and bolted (highly unlikely) throwing Sarah off, her cell phone flying through the bush. Or, I could pull on my running shoes and take off after her. The latter seemed the more palatable option. Besides the Warrior Race is mostly trail running, so what better way to train?

Turns out, it was a ball, and a world away from running on the road.

The trail system at our stable is a world washed in green, sunlight dappling the leaves here and there, soft earth underfoot. Our only company were elm, white birch and maple, raspberry bushes, sumac, the occasionally frog or squirrel leaping out of the way.  Stepping into the forest, one`s frayed edges immediately feel soothed.

Sarah and Rev started out walking, but soon enough picked up a trot. I matched my pace to theirs. When they broke into a canter along an open stretch of trail, I took off after them. When the trail narrowed, they would slow to a walk, Sarah turning around in the saddle to check my position before trotting on again. Their pace, and mine, varied with the terrain, an unexpected fartlek.

What I soon realized is that trail running elucidates the same right-here- right-now mindset that I find – and love – in mountain biking. As I followed the trail, my mind was so focussed on my proximity to Rev and what roots I might trip over, that I had little sensation of my body at all.  On the road, my mind tends to take a constant inventory of aches and pains. Here in the forest, I was free to walk, trot, run in pure response to the environment. I felt no discomfort at all. None. Zero. My mind was so engaged in its surroundings, that it wasn’t calculating the distance to the finish or anticipating when the cramps might start. Not even my usually grumpy stomach complained.

And, of course, I wasn’t sitting stationery on a rock worrying either.

Later, as we walked to cool out, a tree branch snapped nearby, Rev stopped walking, cocked his ears and listened. I did, too.  On the trail, I had found my inner horse.

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